View Full Version : Warning; this prop below does not come from a German airship !

Bob Gardner
02-13-2018, 08:48 AM
I have been meaning to produce a warning for fellow forumites for some time about a prop which is often referred to on eBay etc as from a Zeppelin airship.
A Dutchman recently asked me about them and my answer is copied below.

British target tugs towed a target behind them for fighter aircraft to shoot at. A propeller was lowered from the fuselage to generate electicity for the winch. Several of these come to market each year. They are often described as a generator propeller from a German Airship.

It is a propeller from a British RAF target tug. It might date from late WW2 but probably it is more modern than that. 1950s to 1980s.

It was lowered from the fuselage of the tug-aircraft to provide electric power for the winch which could let out (and recover) up to 1000m of cable with the target on the end. It was mainly used for fighter aircraft training where a number of aircraft took it in turns to fire at it. (You can see why the cable was so long !). Each aircraft had its bullets dabbed with a different colour, so individual scores could be calculated. It was also used to provide a target for RAF and Army troops on the ground.

They often appear on eBay as generator fans from a German WW1 airship which is nonsense. Airships travelled at very slow speed and the airflow would be insufficient to provide much electricity. And airships had multiple engines, often four, from which electricity was generated.

With kind regards,


Bob Gardner
02-13-2018, 09:05 AM
Bob Gardner

02-13-2018, 08:38 PM
Thanks for that info, Bob. I've seen these occasionally and wondered about their origin. Don't some of them have drawing numbers stamped on them?

Bob Gardner
02-14-2018, 08:22 AM
It would appear that all British auxiliary props were designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, the RAF, which became the Royal Aircraft Establishment, RAE, after April 1918 to prevent confusion with the newly formed Royal Air Force.

In sequential order, the aux prop drg nos that I have recorded are:


T28141 two-bladed D18" 500w
T28142 two-bladed D24" 500W also marked PRA*6

T28150 two-bladed D18.5" 500W made by Betjeman
T28153 two-bladed D19.0" 500W marked for heating a pilot's flying suit

T28756A two-bladed D 13.5" P33" (sic !) RCAF 10A/3445/AM


T29017 four-bladed D21" P14.2" Rotherham fuel pump
T29290 four-bladed dated April 1936
T29506 four-bladed D36" Martlet (......... Thus WW2) see below
Drg no nk four-bladed D42" RCAF

T29506 above was used on the British Martlet Target Tug. The Martlet was used by the British Royal Navy, initially as a ship-borne fighter. It was the Grumman F4F Wildcat. The RN called it a Martlet. This name derives from House Martlet, the old name for a House Martin and the Navy may have had in mind that the House Martin flew wonderfully but had minute legs and tiny feet; hence a small ungainly undercarriage.

About the best aviation Sang-Froid comment that I know of came from a navy flyer, towing a drogue over a RN destroyer for anti-aircraft. Tracer fire from the ship passed just in front of the Martlet. The pilot radio-ed to the ship, I am towing this target, not pushing it!